Friday, 30 October 2015

Friday October 30

A cloudy morning with periods of light drizzle. Very mild with a light southerly breeze.

I chose to walk along the road from Netherstead to Church Farm, hoping to find something exciting like a Black Redstart on one of the buildings. As usual the plan failed, and the best I could muster was a Grey Wagtail and two Mistle Thrushes.

Cutting down to the pool and flash field, the searching produced a Stonechat, 57 Snipe, two Green Sandpipers and 29 Teal. Then the rain really pepped up and I got absolutely soaked walking back.

Ironically, as I made my soggy way across the strip field I flushed the only decent bird of the day, a Jack Snipe.

I ended by driving to the south end, where 167 Linnets on the wires were frequently disturbed by nearby gunfire.

What a wash out.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sunday October 25

Perfect weather conditions, calm with high cloud and good visibility.

Dave and I had a good look round, and there were encouraging signs, most notably a flock of 350 Linnets with at least 35 Lesser Redpolls in the crop at the south end.

The woodland areas produced at least six Goldcrests, and four Blackcaps.

Most of these birds were seen in the first hour, and thereafter things became quieter. There was no evidence of any arrivals at the Flash field, with 42 Snipe, 10 Teal, and two Green Sandpipers present. Although there is no duck shooting on the patch this year, it is still taking place locally so there seems little prospect of improvement until the end of January.

Rather frustrating.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Thursday October 22

With a slightly restricted morning in prospect, I split the visit into two sections. From Netherstead I ambled around, seeing a Grey Wagtail, a Stonechat, and 60 Linnets. I then drove the Church Farm and did a circuit of the northern end.

The weather was coming from the west, and was cloudy and a little breezy. There wasn't very much passage going on, but I did see 47 Starlings heading west. I also finally got a photographic monkey off my back as I at last managed a photograph of a Goldcrest.

These tiny, zippy little birds have defied my attempts to focus on them with my bridge camera for over a year. If I ever find a Firecrest here, there's not much danger it will be proved with a photograph.

Thrush passage was much less dramatic than last week, but many are now feeding in the hedgerows. I logged 61 Fieldfares and 85 Redwings.

A few Lesser Redpolls and Siskins flew over, while the flash field produced five Green Sandpipers, 26 Snipe, 10 Teal, 45 Greylag Geese, and six Lapwings.

Yellowhammers vary quite a lot from bright males to dull first-winter females. This is about as un-yellow as they get.

Unless its a Pine Bunting of course!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sunday October 18

Cloudy with a light northerly breeze. This was a memorable visit despite no year-ticks being unearthed, and only 48 species being seen. The saving grace was the quantity of birds on offer.

For a change, Dave and I decided on a clockwise circuit. This meant more time being devoted to the fields, and none at all to the woodland margins. We began at the south end where we found the first of at least 29 Lesser Redpolls (a record), and the first of seven Stonechats (another record).

I have a love hate relationship with Redpolls. They are great little birds, but they do your head in because you have to check every one to rule out the continental species, Mealy Redpoll. Added to this is the difficulty of identifying what used to be races of one species, Lesser Redpolls varying from one individual to another according to age and sex.

Although there did seem to be a large one among the birds we saw, we never got to grips with it and we ended up identifying all the ones we saw well as Lesser. This one caused us a few problems though.

Lesser Redpoll
Same bird

Rather grey around the head, but thought to be too brown mantled, and the wing-bars had too much brown in them for a Mealy. There is a new article coming out soon in the Frontiers of Bird Identification series which I understand will include a chapter on Redpolls. I'll certainly be buying it.

The Stonechats were a pair in the ridge field, two pairs around Netherstead, and one male at the south end. Here is one of the females at Netherstead.

The other two species to break records were thrushes. We saw over a thousand Fieldfares and Redwings flying over, all going north-west, the break down being 576 Redwings and 437 Fieldfares. There were also a couple of flocks which were too distant to fully identify.

It was one of those days when there was never a dull moment. Other counts included 65 Goldfinches, 14 Chaffinches, 22 Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, 15 Yellowhammers, at least 10 Reed Buntings, five Siskins, two Blackcaps, a Grey Wagtail, and 15 Teal.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Thursday October 15

Cloudy with a light north-easterly breeze. I made a late start due to acute laziness, and didn't get to the patch until 09.30. It wasn't long before I was chatting to Maggie, who was walking her dog. She quite reasonably asked me what I was hoping to see today. Although I was tempted to reel off a long list of potential rarities, reality kicked in and I settled for Redwings.

What do they look like and how many have you seen so far? They look a bit like Starlings, and I've seen two, came my answer. I felt she wasn't impressed. Within ten minutes I had seen a party of 40 heading north-west, but throughout the majority of the rest of the morning no more flew over.

That was all to change at around 11.45am. A group of nine, and then another 55. The birds kept on coming, and by 12.15pm, I had amassed a grand total of 361, all heading north-west, none calling, and none looking like stopping. I searched each flock for Fieldfares, but saw none, although one distant flock of 40 thrushes did look a bit too big to be Redwings, so I didn't count them as anything.

A party of 60 Redwings
So you have to remember that this is not just happening at Morton Bagot. Across the country similar flocks will have been doing just the same, as Scandinavia gradually sheds its entire population. The scale is eye-watering.

The rest of the morning was dominated by another northern species, but in this case they will just have come from northern Britain. Small numbers of Lesser Redpolls were feeding on willow herb seeds along the hedge at Netherstead, and I found a larger flock near the Pheasant pens, giving me a creditable total of 24.

Lesser Redpoll
Other passerines seen included 30 Skylarks, five Siskins, a Chiffchaff, and a pair of Stonechats.

The male Stonechat
Thank goodness for the perching birds, because the watery areas were absolutely desperate. The grand total of waterbirds was three Green Sandpipers, three Teal, two Snipe, 30 Mallard, a Greylag Goose, and a Kingfisher which saw me first and as a consequence was heard and not seen.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday October 11

I'll begin this post by looking back to last Sunday. Dave was able to give me the full story of his Marsh Harrier sighting. After seeing it as soon as he arrived, he then relocated it over an hour later as he approached the flash field. It ended up over the nearest flash where it circled and then landed, apparently attracted by the corpse of a goose sp which had been shot the previous day. It then stood around for about 15 minutes while Dave tried to establish whether he could contact anyone with a camera. Eventually Mike set out from home, but before he got half way the bird took off and headed north. It must have been present at the patch for about an hour and a half in total.

Although I wasn't there, Dave's vivid description makes me wonder whether in ten years time I will think that I saw it! Dave also counted 75 Snipe and a Stonechat.

So back to this Sunday. Our most notable sighting occurred shortly after arriving, as nine late Swallows headed south. After that we decided to target tit flocks in the hope that this autumn's massive influx of Yellow-browed Warblers might be reflected here. It is a bit like looking for a needle in a thousand haystacks, and all we saw was a dozen Long-tailed Tits, two Marsh Tits, a Treecreeper, two Chiffchaffs, and four Goldcrests. Up to five Siskins, and three Lesser Redpolls were also present.

The flash field contained 56 Snipe, six Teal, four Green Sandpipers, and the dead goose. Considering I saw seven over Redditch as I headed for the paper shop this morning, I was surprised that not a single Redwing flew over all morning.

Here's a mystery raptor photograph for you.

The bird had careered across the ridge field before landing and allowing me to sneak up on it. Not too difficult, but give yourself a point if you said...


The final notable bird of the morning was a female Stonechat, which we discovered back at Netherstead.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Thursday October 8

Our last full day dawned sunny for once. A light westerly, but I still decided to spend my last morning exploring the fields around the cottage.

Two hours later I was somewhat regretting the decision as very little noteworthy had come to my attention. In fact the best sighting was made as Lyn and I prepared to head for Scarborough for the non-birding part of the day, when a flock of 60 Pink-footed Geese flew noisily south.

Earlier I did at least manage to finally nail a photograph of one of the many Tree Sparrows which inhabit the hedgerows around here.

Tree Sparrow (if only it was at Morton Bagot)
Other than that the bright sunshine was at least good for photography, and I was quite pleased with one of the local Robin singing in the garden.

My next post should be from back at Morton Bagot.

I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wednesday October 7

Unsure as to when the rain would start, but quite certain the fog/mist was sticking around, I headed back to Hawsker Bottoms. Here, I was pleased to discover that the ringer, John McEachen, was catching birds at the sewage works.

I greeted him with the news that I had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler and Ring Ouzels on Monday. He told me he had been coming every day, except Monday. Oh dear. I noticed that two or three Blackcaps were still present, and also a few Song Thrushes.

The fog seemed to lift a bit so I headed for the coastal path. The only bird of note was a fly-over Curlew, and after 15 minutes I returned to the sewage works. At this point I realised I could hear a Yellow-browed, but after a dozen minutes there was no sign of it. I headed for John to tell him the bird was still here, only to discover he had been playing a tape of Yellow-browed!

However, it was still present. John had seen it, and a few minutes later I had too. The view was typically brief, so I headed further up the hill to search for more migrants. John headed for his nets, and a few minutes later he was giving me the thumbs up. He had caught it.

The Yellow-browed Warbler
It was the first he had ever caught here, although I think it was only quite recently that he had started ringing here.

I wandered back to the coast to seawatch, just as the mist rolled back in.

The sea is down there somewhere
There was nothing for it but to return to the sewage works. John now had tapes blasting out birdsong to the extent that I had to stop listening for birds and just assume everything was tape. Just before I left, John had one more surprise up his sleeve (or to be more accurate in a little canvas bag), a Treecreeper.

An excellent sight.

The rain duly set in at lunchtime, and birding ended for the day.

Tuesday October 6

Another non-birding day. It rained all morning while we waited for our friends Pete and Barb to arrive from Newcastle. They did so at lunchtime, so we ate here and then headed for Whitby.

I did sneak off briefly looking for anything ornithological.

The Turnstone, one of three, was actually a year-tick. I will be interested to see where the Herring Gull was ringed.

It is now the following morning, outside the fog is thick and the forecast is for heavy rain all day. Obviously its a birding day.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Monday October 5

I spent the morning dithering. The rain looked imminent, but failed to arrive until 10.00 am. Until then I had made a couple of half-hearted forays into the immediate surroundings, finding nothing better than a fly-over Snipe.

When the rain did arrive, accompanied by a stiff south-easterly, birding was rendered impossible, so we hunkered down until lunch. After about 13.30 the weather showed signs of improving and so I gritted my teeth and headed for Hawsker Bottoms.

As I approached the little sewage works just above the Cleveland Way, a Ring Ouzel called from the surrounding bushes. Very promising. I saw it as it flew out, and then heard a second bird. Also piling out were four Song Thrushes, two Blackbirds, and two Blackcaps. Clearly migrants had arrived.

I then headed to the top of the cliff and sea-watched for 30 minutes. This only produced half a dozen Red-throated Divers and 40 Gannets. I was about to give up when I spotted flock of 55 geese heading south. They turned out to be Barnacle Geese.

I eventually headed back to the sewage works, and at last found a bird I had been hoping for, a Yellow-browed Warbler. It posed beautifully for several seconds and I really should have got a decent shot of it, but I was momentarily distracted by a second bird in the same elder bush, which turned out to be a Blue Tit, and as I returned to the Yellow-browed and pressed the shutter, it turned and exited. Drat. I did get a shot but it shows none of the diagnostic features and I'm too ashamed to show it.

I hung around for forty minutes, and eventually a tit-flock reappeared. With them was the Yellow-browed Warbler and several crests, one of which sounded like a Firecrest. Unfortunately I failed to see it to confirm my suspicions, while the Yellow-browed Warbler kept on evading my lens. Once they all returned to the Hawsker Bottoms jungle, I decided to head home.

I know I normally show even my worst photos, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Oh, go on then!

Literally an arse-end view of a Yellow-browed Warbler

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sunday October 4

Still on holiday, but there was action at Morton Bagot. This morning Dave rang to say a cream-crown Marsh Harrier had just flown over him at Netherstead. Dave's first at Morton Bagot. I was genuinely pleased for him, although when he commented that it was a pity I hadn't been there because I would have had a great chance of a good photograph I thought he was pushing it a bit!

As it happened I was having rather a good morning myself. Today had been designated a non-birding day so I outflanked my companions by going out for an hour before anyone was up. It was a cloudy morning with just a hint of a southerly breeze. My first five Redwings of the autumn flew over, a good sign. Shortly afterwards I spotted an adult Peregrine perched on a telegraph pole, and then a tiny falcon dashed over, tilting briefly at panicking Starlings, a female Merlin. I had barely gathered my thoughts when a familiar call had me searching the sky, eventually spotting five Crossbills heading north high overhead.

I returned to the cottage pleased with this haul, and then found a Coal Tit which perched in full view showing off its steel grey mantle and sharply defined white cheeks and nape.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me to record any of this, but it was put to use to record Lyn and her friends as part of their anniversary celebration weekend.

Jan & Carol, with Lyn in the middle.
We then set off for Whitby. I was being very good, and left the binoculars behind. I still had my camera though.

Starlings bathing in a pond at the Abbey
Back on message, the Abbey
My lens also found two Wheatears, and a Meadow Pipit at the abbey, and a Kittiwake at the docks in Whitby itself. Lyn, Jan, and Carol found lots of jewellery, porcelain etc, which they bought, and we all found an excellent fish and chip restaurant.

The afternoon was over all too quickly, and we bade farewell to our friends as they returned home. I noticed the wind was starting to blow south-easterly, so absented myself once more. This paid off within ten minutes as a half forgotten "tew" call followed by a faint "trrtrrtrr"was fortunately repeated causing me to realise a Lapland Bunting was flying over.  I got onto it and was thrilled to see it drop into a distant field. I was less pleased to discover that the field in question contained dense pasture, and all I managed to kick up were a few Meadow Pipits.

Not a bad non-birding day though.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


Well here we are, on our holidays. Our location is a small village just south of Whitby, and we are sharing a cottage with two of Lyn's long-standing friends.

So today Lyn, Jan, and Carol have gone off on a search for bargains (last I heard they were in Middlesborough), while I set about exploring my new patch.

Having studied Google Earth over the last few weeks I decided my best bet was a place called Hawsker Bottoms. The other thing to come under close scrutiny was the weather forecast. Being on the east coast I was hoping for easterlies and rain (Lyn didn't share this wish), and this morning it seemed that the weather was holding its breath. No wind at all and complete cloud cover.

So I spent the late morning exploring Hawsker Bottoms, not as rude as it sounds. I was actually a little disappointed. The ravine leading down to the sea was certainly well vegetated, just too well vegetated. It was an impenetrable jungle of large trees and hawthorn. A ringer had been there all morning, and told me he had caught very little. Hardly any birds called, and my best small bird was a fly-over Siskin.

Never mind, at least the sea couldn't hide. It was like a mill pond, so the Gannets, Guillemots, and gulls were all far off shore. At least six Red-throated Divers flew south as I watched from the coastal path. My best discovery came from here as I heard geese calling and looked up to see four Barnacle Geese heading north. One or two Porpoises showed themselves occasionally well off shore.

Barnacle Geese
I returned to base for a cup of tea, and then set out on a marathon exploration of the fields around the cottage. No scarcities were found, but there were big differences from Morton Bagot. Tree Sparrows were regularly seen in small groups, the largest about 14. I counted 62 Collared Doves, 427 Starlings, 188 Lapwings, 146 Linnets, 260 Herring Gulls, and 140 Black-headed Gulls.

So a steady start, but if the wind goes easterly up here I may be in with a chance of a find.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Thursday October 1

A late start and a quick look at the flashes produced 46 Meadow Pipits, three House Martins, a Swallow, and a Siskin moving south.

On the flashes were 67 Teal, two Green Sandpipers, seven Mute Swans, and 42 visible Snipe.

There are nine Snipe hiding in this shot.
The hedgerows mustered a couple of Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest, and a dozen Yellowhammers.

So much for easterlies at Morton Bagot!